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Dengue fever is one of the most debilitating and painful diseases caused by a virus of genus Flavivirus. Reports from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that the illness is a major cause of death and is caused by mosquito bites.
Of particular importance in this paper is Central America where the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) observes that dengue fever as a major problem that is on the rise. This has caused the organization to declare it as an epidemiological threat. This paper takes a critical look at dengue fever, its medical, microbiological, social aspects, and measures of prevention.
An overview of Dengue fever
Dengue fever is a major infectious disease of the tropics transmitted by bites from mosquito belonging to genus Flavivirus. Studies reveal that the virus has four serotypes namely DENV 1, DENV 2, DENV 3, and DENV 4. Each one of them is capable of providing this type of immunity for a long time.
Attwooll and Matthew point out that the Dengue fever virus (DENV) shares the same genus with other arthropod-borne virus such as the Omsk hemorrhagic virus, tick-borne encephalitis virus, West Nile virus and yellow fever virus (170). These protein molecules are the core components that make the virus particle.
Infected Aedes mosquito is the primary transmitter of Dengue virus. Transmission occurs through mosquito bites that happen mostly during the evenings and daytime. It is important to note that this virus can circulate in primates, but its primary host is a human being. Additionally, the virus can also be transmitted through organ donation, exchange of infected blood products and from mother to child.
CDC reports indicate that the transmission cycle of the virus begins from an infected human being who infects a mosquito that later infects another human being. In areas where non-human primates exist, the primates may act as virus reservoirs (par. 4).
Signs and symptoms
The characteristic symptoms related to Dengue fever are associated with joint pains and muscles, rash, headache, nausea, mild bleeding, and sudden high fever. Attwooll and Matthew indicate that many people confuse these symptoms with those of other viral infections such as flu (278). They add that this is because several patients display asymptomatic symptoms in its incubation period before it turns severe. Serious conditions may result in dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Dengue fever has been a debilitating problem that has claimed many lives since the 18th century. In Central America, the fever thrives due to favorable climatic conditions. Reports indicate that over 868,650 dengue fever cases were reported in January 2013 in the Americas. About 364 people died while 8400 suffer from severe infections (World Health Organization par. 4). The World Health Organization estimates that this number has since January increased significantly from Honduras to Costa Rica with deaths reaching to 1100 people.
In Costa Rica, the fever has spread in recent months with over 12000 people have suffered from the infection by July 2013 (World Health Organization par. 4). This large increase in infection cases has compelled the authorities to declare health alert.
The WHO reports that the figure (12000) represents a four-fold increase in comparison to the number of infected persons in January 2012 (World Health Organization par. 4). It is imperative to point out that even with the increase, mortality rates caused by the fever has been between 1 and 5% in cases where treatment has not been given.
In Honduras, there has been a significant rise in infections related to Dengue fever. This has been occasioned by global warming, increased traveling to urban areas and population growth. Of particular concern is the rising number of deaths per year which has grown to approximately 10 people. The Honduras Health Ministry reports that there have been about 1440 diagnosed cases of severe dengue fever with over 8000 suspected cases since January 2013 (World Health Organization par. 6).
Nicaragua has been the worst hit area with over 70% increase in Dengue fever (World Health Organization par. 4). Reports indicate that the infection in this area has been worsened by climatic changes, and infection by individuals traveling back from endemic areas. Besides dengue fever, the presence of diseases such as leptospirosis and influenza has increased mortality rates. So far, three deaths have been reported from 1300 diagnosed people (World Health Organization par. 4).
In endemic areas, physical examination and symptoms of dengue fever are clinically diagnosed. While this may not be effective due to the problem of differentiating the fever with symptoms of other viral infections, doctors look out for warning signs, positive tourniquet test, generalized pains, vomiting and low white blood count in a probable diagnosis. Some of the warning signs that are looked at include serosal effusions, restlessness or lethargy, mucosal bleeding, ongoing vomiting, and worsening abdominal pains.
Besides, antibodies and viruses can be checked by conducting microbiological blood tests in a laboratory as well as evaluating the dengue fever-related symptoms (Attwooll and Matthew 200).
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Treatment and prevention
Centre for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that dengue fever lacks specific antiviral treatment or any vaccines approved for treatment (par. 3). Therefore, the best remedy for the fever remains to be careful management and supportive nursing care.
Attwooll, Jolyon and Matthew Firestone. Central America on a Shoestring. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Centre for Disease Control. Dengue, 22nd Mar. 2013. Web. 19 Sep. 2013.
World Health Organization. Global Alert and Response. Impact of Dengue, 14th Apr. 2013. Web. 19 Sep. 2013.